How is it that just a few hours can ruin an entire day’s worth of good-for-you habits? If you’re like most women, nighttime is tough.Your biology may be partly to blame: Appetite often peaks around 8 p.m., according to a study in the journal Obesity. And then there’s my own theory—the evening is when you can finally let out a sigh of relief that you’ve made it through the day, and that can lead to excessive eating.
Whether the cause is physiological or psychological, there’s no question that the post-dinner period can be disastrous. Instead of munching on heart-healthy foods, you tend to fill up on salty or sweet treats that make you feel good in the short term but not so great in the long run.
The result is more than a few extra pounds—think elevated blood pressure and blood sugar spikes. The good news: In seven easy steps, you can turn around your p.m. routine and wake up feeling lean and energized.
1. Power Up At Dinner
Make sure your meal includes fiber (found in vegetables and whole grains) and protein (lean meat, beans and dairy), two nutrients that help you feel full and satisfied. The duo also works to steady blood sugar, bolstering your willpower to fight the call of cookies and cake.
2. Delay Dessert
It’s OK to enjoy a sweet or salty treat—like a scoop of fro-yo or a few cups of popcorn—but try to push it to at least an hour or two after your main meal. Essentially, the longer you put off dessert or a munchie, the fewer awake hours you’ll have to resist those urges.
3. Plan Tomorrow’s Breakfast
Think about what you’ll eat in the morning. This may sound counterintuitive if you’re already fixated on food, but knowing there’s another meal around the corner may help quash the immediate urge to eat.
4. Close the Kitchen
Once you’re done with dinner and dessert, make it a point to formally shut down your kitchen. Pack up and store all food, empty the sink, load the dishwasher, turn off the lights and leave the room to signify the end of eating for the day.
5. Brew a Cup of Caffeine-Free Herbal Tea.
It’s soothing and warm, so it takes awhile to sip, keeping your mouth occupied.
6. Distract Yourself
Find an absorbing activity that doesn’t involve eating: Read a few chapters in a book or take a walk
7. Take a Deep Breath
A minute or two of breathing (close your eyes!) helps you slow down so you don’t grab the snacks.